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Concert Masterworks

Concert Masterworks

Professor Robert Greenberg Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
Course No.  710
Course No.  710
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Course Overview

About This Course

32 lectures  |  46 minutes per lecture

Have you ever wondered what goes through a composer's mind during those magical weeks and months when a musical composition—something meant to become a listening experience—is being notated on paper? Have you tried to imagine the creative process that boils inside geniuses like Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorák, Strauss, Brahms, Mendelssohn, or Liszt? Or within any composer?

  • Is it pure inspiration?
  • Does a composer hear the music first, before even picking up a pen?
  • Or does the music, in fact, actually begin on that blank sheet of staff paper?

Most important, can lay listeners like us, untrained in the technicalities of music, be taught to open our ears to a composer's creative intentions?

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Have you ever wondered what goes through a composer's mind during those magical weeks and months when a musical composition—something meant to become a listening experience—is being notated on paper? Have you tried to imagine the creative process that boils inside geniuses like Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorák, Strauss, Brahms, Mendelssohn, or Liszt? Or within any composer?

  • Is it pure inspiration?
  • Does a composer hear the music first, before even picking up a pen?
  • Or does the music, in fact, actually begin on that blank sheet of staff paper?

Most important, can lay listeners like us, untrained in the technicalities of music, be taught to open our ears to a composer's creative intentions?

Learn the Art of Listening to Great Music

Can we learn the art of listening, so that great music becomes an even more insightful and pleasurable experience for us?

Dr. Robert Greenberg believes the answer to that last question is "yes."

And now this winner of three Nicola De Lorenzo Prizes in composition, whose music courses in several classical genres are among our most popular, has set out to prove his point once again.

He has created a course designed to give you a new level of sophistication as a music listener—using as his teaching tools some of the most memorable works in all of music.

Gain a New Level of Listening Sophistication

The skills you learn in this course will attune you to intricacies of musical purpose, structure, and narrative content that you will be able to perceive in any piece of music.

Though this is a demanding course, with a deeper look into musical structure than untrained listeners are likely to have experienced, it is not an intimidating one.

Professor Greenberg vividly positions each composition and its composer in the social and musical fabric of its time, so you can understand the music in its proper societal and artistic context.

His descriptions are vivid, evoking dramatic images of:

  • The precocities of young Mozart
  • Beethoven's progress toward his "Heroic" style, as his inner tendencies exaggerated by the turbulent times he lived in
  • The profound sense of caution ingrained in Brahms by his solid middle-class background, and how this influenced his choices of what to publish.

Throughout these lectures, Professor Greenberg includes fascinating details of the musical world in which each composer worked.

Learn Beethoven's Advantage over His Predecessors

You learn, for example:

  • How the piano developed, and how design advances gave Beethoven a profound advantage over his harpsichord-trained predecessors
  • how the 19th-century cult of the individual artist as hero led to the rise of virtuoso superstars such as the legendary Italian violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini, who revolutionized the art of violin playing and inspired Liszt to become a piano virtuoso second to none
  • how the folk elements used by nationalist composers became part of the shared, common language of concert music, so Dvorák could feel perfectly comfortable using "American" elements in his Symphony no. 9, the New World Symphony, examined in this course.

The core of the course is its superb structural examination of eight of the most brilliant pieces of music ever written, with Professor Greenberg grouping the composers and their compositions into four pairs, each designed to clarify different aspects of music for you.

Part I: The Classical Piano Concerto features:

  • Mozart—Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, K. 503 (1786)
  • Beethoven—Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, the Emperor Concerto (1809).

The emphasis of these lectures is on the musical substance of the concerti themselves—their formal structure, thematic relationships, expressive content, and the role of the piano soloist.

Part II: Nationalism and Expressionism in the Late 19th Century features:

  • Antonín Dvorák—Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony(1893)
  • Richard Strauss—Death and Transfiguration (1889).

Here Professor Greenberg focuses on Dvorák's structural use of conflicting keys to reflect conflicting themes, and on Strauss's tone poem as an example of a "through-composed piece," in which the motives and themes grow out of material that has preceded them.

Part III: Great 19th-Century Violin Concerti features:

  • Beethoven—Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61 (1806)
  • Brahms—Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77 (1878).

In comparing these two works—the "backbone of the 19th-century violin concerto repertoire"—Professor Greenberg shows how the work of Beethoven, trained in the structures and techniques of 18th-century Classicism, and Brahms, the 19th-century Romantic, so clearly reflect characteristics of the other.

Part IV: Early Romantic-Era Program Music features:

  • Felix Mendelssohn—Incidental Music, op. 61 (1842) and Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21 (1826)
  • Franz Liszt—Totentanz (1849).

Here, Professor Greenberg compares Mendelssohn's brilliant and endearing interpretation of Shakespeare's comedy with Liszt's virtuosic example of the Romantic era's fascination with the Gothic and the macabre in his work based on the 14th-century Black Death.

Experience Deep Structural UnderstandingStudying musical composition in this way is an opportunity to penetrate more deeply into the structure of a piece than you've ever done before.

Professor Greenberg likens the experience to understanding great works of architecture. We can see their surfaces and even be moved by their beauty, but unless we are taught to see and comprehend them in our minds, our eyes will be blind to their richest glories:

  • Their construction
  • Their ingenious blending of purpose and technique
  • Their philosophical force.
Learn to perceive most of the aesthetic, structural, expressive, and narrative information a composer builds into a piece of music, dramatically changing your listening experience.

The result? The music you listen to becomes more vivid, life enhancing, exciting, visceral, and altogether compelling.

See New Ways to Plumb Music's Depths

These lectures give you the tools of vocabulary and the structural fundamentals most of us, no matter how much we love music, have never acquired—even if you've taken "music appreciation" or learned to play an instrument at a basic level.

Even more important, you gain a knowledge of the structural conventions original audiences took for granted, allowing you to share the musical experiences those audiences had when they were surprised or challenged by a composer's departure from those conventions.

To ensure you get the most from the lectures, the explorations of each of the masterpieces analyzed are made up of three components:

  • Background: the life, times, personality, and musical stylistic assumptions of the composer under study
  • An extensive examination of the work under study, analyzing its form, themes, thematic relationships, expressive content, and more
  • The WordScore Guide—a unique visual device that allows you to follow the musical narrative as it unfolds before you, even if you can't read a note of music.

With the tools provided by this course, you can understand a composer's surrender to the status quo ... or his defiance of it. And you'll be able to experience, as those first audiences did, the music's full intellectual and expressive impact.

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32 Lectures
  • 1
    Mozart—Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, I
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 2
    Mozart—Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, II
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 3
    Mozart—Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, III
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 4
    Mozart—Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, IV
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 5
    Beethoven—Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, I
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 6
    Beethoven—Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, II
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 7
    Beethoven—Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, III
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 8
    Beethoven—Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, IV
    In Lectures 1-8, Professor Robert Greenberg discusses Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 25 in C Major, written in 1786; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat Major, op. 73, of 1809: the Emperor Concerto. x
  • 9
    Dvorák—Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, I
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 10
    Dvorák—Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, II
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 11
    Dvorák—Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, III
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 12
    Dvorák—Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, IV
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 13
    Strauss—Death and Transfiguration, I
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 14
    Strauss—Death and Transfiguration, II
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 15
    Strauss—Death and Transfiguration, III
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 16
    Strauss—Death and Transfiguration, IV
    In Lectures 9-16, the featured works are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 in E Minor, op. 95, the New World Symphony, of 1893; and Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, written in 1889. x
  • 17
    Beethoven—Violin Concerto in D Major, I
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 18
    Beethoven—Violin Concerto in D Major, II
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 19
    Beethoven—Violin Concerto in D Major, III
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 20
    Beethoven—Violin Concerto in D Major, IV
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 21
    Brahms—Violin Concerto in D Major, I
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 22
    Brahms—Violin Concerto in D Major, II
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 23
    Brahms—Violin Concerto in D Major, III
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 24
    Brahms—Violin Concerto in D Major, IV
    In Lectures 17-24 the two masterworks described are Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61, of 1806; and Brahms's Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77, of 1878. x
  • 25
    Mendelssohn—Incidental Music and Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, I
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x
  • 26
    Mendelssohn—Incidental Music and Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, II
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x
  • 27
    Mendelssohn—Incidental Music and Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, III
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x
  • 28
    Mendelssohn—Incidental Music and Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, IV
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x
  • 29
    Liszt—Totentanz, I
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x
  • 30
    Liszt—Totentanz, II
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x
  • 31
    Liszt—Totentanz, III
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x
  • 32
    Liszt—Totentanz, IV
    In Lectures 25-32 you will learn about three masterworks: Medelssohn's Incidental Music, op. 61 of 1842; his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 21, of 1826; and Franz Liszt's Totentanz of 1849. x

Lecture Titles

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Robert Greenberg
Ph.D. Robert Greenberg
San Francisco Performances

Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions—which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles—performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands.

He has served on the faculties of the University of California, Berkeley; California State University, Hayward; and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, and the Chicago Symphony. For The Great Courses, he has recorded more than 500 lectures on a range of composers and classical music genres.

Professor Greenberg is a Steinway Artist. His many other honors include three Nicola de Lorenzo Composition Prizes and a Koussevitzky commission from the Library of Congress. He has been profiled in various major publications, including The Wall Street Journal; Inc. magazine; and the London Times.

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Reviews

Rated 4.5 out of 5 by 22 reviewers.
Rated 4 out of 5 by Excellent Musical Ellaboration This review will pertain to the audio version. First of all, let me say that I am a devoted Greenberg fan. As a college music major, I can say, in all honesty, that, compared to what I have learned from Professor Greenberg, it makes me question what I really learned in my college music courses. This is about my sixth Greenberg course. If I had taken this course earlier, perhaps I wouldn't hold other courses to very high standards. It was difficult for me to review this course, mainly because it isn't up to the same standards as more recent Greenberg courses. However, I do recognize, that this is to be expected. This course was produced in 1995, and both The Teaching Company, and Dr. Greenberg himself, have matured in so many ways. Here are my major observations about this course: 1# At times, I found the tone quality very distracting. There is a hissing, open, airy sound that is present throughout most of the presentations. Sometimes, when the music is soft, the hissing sound is louder than the music. Even when one tries to tune this out, it still is very annoying. 2) Unlike most of the TTC courses, these lectures can be skipped around, within individual works. There are about two major ways in which the course is set up. One way, is to think of it consisting of 8 different lectures, each of which lasts for 3 hours. The second way is to think of it as being in four different sections: Each section consists of 8 different lectures, of which each lecture is 45 minutes long. Within that context, half of these works are primarily orchestral works, the remaining half are works written for a soloist with orchestra #Concerti) 3) There is much to be learned from this course. Even as a music major, I was able to extract much from these lectures. Although some reviewers were confused as to why Dr. Greenberg would spend so much time on using Beethoven's 5th in order to introduce the Beethoven Violin Concerto, at the conclusion of the 4th lecture on this concerto, I was able to make the connection between these works. I must admit, that, for awhile, I was also asking myself, as to why so much time was devoted to the Beethoven 5th. As the third lecture rolled around, and I could see where the professor was going with this, I looked at this a bit of masterful teaching. 4) There are a few times, when, right in the middle of a lecture, the sound phases out, then re-phrases in again. This might be distracting for some. 5) Although I have not seen the video version, there are several times that Professor Greenberg references items that he has outlined on the board. However, it seems that most of these visuals are well represented in the Word Score guides. As I have mentioned in other reviews, I am not a big fan of these Word Scores, I can appreciate the fact, that they are designed for non-music readers. In conclusion, there is much to be gained from purchasing, and completing this course. However, I caution that one should not expect this course to be on the same high quality level, as more recent courses are. This is due to the early release date of this course. Hopefully, if this course continues in the catalog, it will be considered for a major revision. May 8, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by More than I wanted to know. I have listened to many of Professor Greenberg's lectures for The Teaching Company and bought this one just because I enjoy him so much. However, this one I had to force myself to stay with. This course was much too detailed for me but I am sure many people were happy for the depth of the presentations. I found I truly enjoyed the detail of pieces I was very familiar with. Maybe if I knew the other pieces better I would appreciate the dissection more. Professor Greenberg's use of what he calls "WordScore Guides" is a magnificent tool to understand the structure of the piece he is presenting. It really helped in the understanding of the parts of a piece. I.e. exposition, development and recapitulation. The course is structured with 8 sections of 4 lectures each. I frequently felt that this could have been 8 mini-courses, like his Great Masters series. As in his other courses, his love of the topic, sense of humor and talent shine throughout. When he is describing the 'war' between the orchestra and the piano you can really hear it. March 5, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by Vintage Greenberg! This series of lectures by Professor Robert Greenberg dates back quite a few years: 1995 is referred to as ‘recent’, ‘Teach12’ is called ‘Teachco’ and there is talk of cassettes and tapes! Still, though he is perhaps comparatively a bit low-key in style, all used to Professor Greenberg will recognize here his usual energy and pertinence. However, it must be pointed out, that contrary to later productions works are not discussed in chronological order but rather thematically. This provides the advantage of making each lecture independent but generates non negligible repetitions for those who listen to all. The musical excerpts are of particularly poor quality and it is definitely useful to insert between lectures onto your playlist the musical works discussed obtained from other sources. February 1, 2014
Rated 3 out of 5 by Not the Best of Professor Greenberg's Courses I could listen to Prof. Greenberg discuss music all day. His presentation style and excellent knowledge of great music makes him a "must-hear" in most of his courses. Unfortunately, "Concert Masterworks" is a let down. It's clear from many of his pop culture references that this is one of Greenberg's earlier courses (c. mid-1990s or thereabouts). Besides these references (and the omnipresent paper shuffling which is absent in his later, better-produced courses), there are two main problems with this set, one which is clearly a manifestation of this being an earlier course. First is Dr. Greenberg's manner of speaking. One of the great things about his speaking style, generally, is his crisp, enthusiastic, humor-filled, and very forceful delivery. However, in this course, Dr. Greenberg frequently adopts a haughtier, snobbish inflection, which is not present in later courses, suggesting that this was feedback acted upon. It becomes intolerable at times here, sounding high society and holier than thou. It drove me crazy, and had me wondering where the real Dr. Greenberg went. The second, and more crucial issue is the material presented. I had high hopes for this course, because I relished the opportunity to discuss great works in extreme detail. However, many of the four-lecture presentations take wild detours, leaving precious little time to fully investigate the work in question. For example, Liszt's "Totentanz" doesn't begin to go under the microscope until the third lecture. The first two lectures discuss Paganini and several Variations pieces that have nothing to do with "Totentanz". Even worse is the Beethoven Violin Concerto. It's worthwhile to discuss thematic development as part of this series, but Dr. Greenberg spends *two* of the four lectures analyzing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to make his points. Those same points could have easily been made with reference to the Violin Concerto itself, so he lost me there. There was at least one other series where Beethoven's Fifth was trotted out at length as a show pony, at the expense of time spent on the actual Masterwork in question. I give the course a modest 3-Star rating, because there is interesting stuff to be found here, and I imagine many listeners will like this just fine. Compared, however, to the more polished presentation style found in Dr. Greenberg's "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music", this course falls way short. December 27, 2013
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